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View from the Frontline

by PeakCare Qld on 4th December 2013

Home -> Articles -> 2013 -> December -> View from the Frontline

“I have learnt that most families usually know what they need, and what society expects of them – we just have to ask the right questions. “ Debra Doherty

Our guest blog post this week comes from Debra Doherty. Debra is the Act for Kids Regional Director for Brisbane and Fraser Coast. The role includes responsibility for overall management; service development and monitoring of the various programs delivered from Brisbane and Maryborough sites. Additional tasks included 2 years as line manager of the Safe House Program with an emphasis on improving operational structures and service quality.

“I began working in the sector as an emergency foster carer in 1979, and commenced study towards a Social Work degree at that time. Since then, I have worked across all facets of our profession, from casework, program development and coordination; senior management through to executive roles; serviced three terms as Chairperson of CAFWAQ – during which time the peak body changed name to PeakCare Qld. I spent 6 years as a consultant, to NGO’s and government bodies around leadership, management, and systems development across most community service strands but predominantly the child protection sector.

“There are two things that motivate and inspire me in my work. The first is that the families who struggle with poverty and personal pain, show extraordinary resilience in facing the day to day chaos of their lives. Secondly, my experience so far confirms that if the right support is available at the right time and if the recipient/s of that support are invited to be truly involved in decision making around solutions, then they will usually rise to the challenge.

“When I think about the past and the future for vulnerable children and families in Queensland I remember the ‘good old days.’ I am old enough to get away with saying the ‘good old days’ of child protection weren’t so good – in fact, times were downright dangerous for lots of children in care.

“The sector has come a long way, and the Carmody, CMC and Forde inquiries have resulted in changes for the better with regard to the legislative intent, prioritising child well-being and safety; and acknowledging the importance of giving people access to universal non-statutory support services.

“However, even now, children in care too frequently experience placement disruption; indigenous children and young people are still over represented in out of home care; children access minimal therapeutic support aimed at healing trauma and recurrent loss, with Act for Kids being one of the very few services to offer this speciality; and we still don’t seem to be able to provide the safety net that young people leaving care deserve.

“The mix of funded programs is enhanced with the growth of early intervention and support strategies to reduce the demand for statutory intervention. Unfortunately, todays programs aren’t designed to ‘walk with and support’ families, children and young people for the long term – which is what it takes to achieve sustainable in-home change, improved family well-being and resilience.

“In the future I feel that one of the greatest challenges we face will be to acknowledge and reduce the ‘risk adverse culture’ that has grown out of attempts to ensure certainty and reduce future government liability. The effect of over-reporting has increased statutory interventions and a rise in workforce stress and disillusionment across both the government and NGO workforce; and families often recoil from seeking the support they need, when they need it, for fear of having their children removed.

“In closing I like to keep in mind that the majority of children and young people are being bought up in families who are just getting on with it, and managing to deliver sound futures for their children. For the families we encounter in our work, the dream is the same, but the path is harder. I have learnt that families usually know what they need, and what society expects of them – we just have to ask the right questions.

“We still have some way to go.”

Debra Doherty

Act For Kids

Regional Director – Brisbane & Fraser Coast